Comedian Dick Gregory Spoke after Federal Free Speech Case
In 1968, a student-run speaker committee invited Dick Gregory, one of the nation’s best-known Black comedians and a civil rights activist, to speak at UT. However, Chancellor Charles Weaver banned Gregory from appearing, calling him an “avowed extreme racist.” For the next two years, a battle played out between supporters of free speech and the UT administration. The case was finally argued and decided in federal court in Knoxville. Judge Robert Taylor ruled that a speaker policy adopted by the administration denied students’ First Amendment right to “receive information and ideas.” Gregory spoke at UT on April 9, 1970, to an audience of 4,000, mostly students, in the Alumni Memorial gym.